Little kids, big appetites

It is a strange day when your child can suddenly out-eat you — a grown adult. I always knew it was coming, but I never thought it would happen at the age of six.

Our son was a year and half when his little sister was born, so for years they’ve always been similar sizes and eaten similar portions. Their plates have looked virtually identical, right down to the way foods are chopped or halved. When we ate in restaurants, they either shared a meal or we ended up bringing a ton of food home for the next day (#winning).

Lately, though, there’s been a big change in their appetites. They’re no longer little carbon copies of each other, and the gap between four-and-a-half and six feels wider.

Our eldest is a good (if slightly picky) eater and a genuine fan of sitting down to a hearty meal. He’ll tuck into a bowl of pasta or a plate of chicken, rice and veggies with gusto, and then have seconds — maybe thirds — along with a couple glasses of milk.

He’s surpassed me this summer, eating more at just about every meal. Everyone keeps saying it must be a growth spurt, but … I don’t think he’s growing? His size six jeans are still falling off him, even with those annoying waist-cinchers as tight as they can go.

Our youngest, though, is not a fan of mealtime these days. If she had her way, she’d happily graze on little snacks all the livelong day. Every 30 minutes, ideally. We have daily battles over the fact that, no, she’s not having a snack at 4:30 p.m. Or five minutes after dinner is over.

While she is certainly a more adventurous eater, her delicate appetite is looking positively toddler-like compared to the teenager-sized one across the table at her brother’s place.

I don’t know whether it’s out of habit or nostalgia, but I still find myself serving them identical little portions. Three pancakes each, and he’ll ask for seconds while she only manages one. A banana muffin each, and suddenly he’s polished off the container full of them. A slice of pizza each, and she stops halfway through and he plows through FIVE MORE SLICES.

(Meanwhile I’ve stopped at three slices and am marvelling over how he’s doing it. Where it is all going?! Most importantly, why isn’t he getting any bigger?!)

It’s hard for your brain to catch up sometimes, after years of cutting chicken and steak into little bites. Slicing grapes and baby carrots down the middle so they’re not choking hazards. Peeling the skin off apples and arranging the thin slivers around the edge of the plate.

How does that morph into making them huge sandwiches between meals? Making pre-practice meals to fuel them up and then post-practice meals because they’re starving again? Running out of milk in a day because someone drank most of a carton without realizing it?

Whenever I see my teenaged nephews, I ask them what they’ve eaten so far that day because it’s kind of fascinating. Breakfast was pretty light, one explained to me the other day — toast, cereal and yogurt. Lunch wound up being a foot-long sub, two loaded tacos and a big ol’ serving of nachos. Woah.

You hear parents moan about the work and expense of feeding these hungry tweens and teens, and they’re not joking. I just sat down and made a full-week grocery list that included everything we needed for school lunches and snacks, and I can’t imagine how much pricier it’s going to get in a few years.

While I’m calculating — and plotting out a massive backyard garden to sustain us through the Hungry Hungry Teen Years — I should also be baking muffins because we’re out already. Again.

So what do you think?

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